The Federal Reserve estimated Wisconsin’s gross domestic product—the value of all goods and services produced in the state—at $346.4 billion in 2019.
Compare that number to how much extra emergency federal aid—$2 billion—Gov. Tony Evers got to try and hold together Wisconsin’s economy and health care systems in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Evers administration reported how it spent that $2 billion, saying it made an important difference.
“We’ve expanded testing, assisted more than 13,000 households pay rent, provided direct aid to more than 15,000 farmers,” Evers told reporters. “We’ve invested in our tourism, lodging and entertainment industries that have been hit really hard.”
Another $131 million in federal CARES cash has been devoted to “addressing our health care workers shortage and helping create capacity in Wisconsin hospitals and skilled nursing facilities,” Evers added.
Also, a total of $188 million was invested in small businesses—including $5,000 one-time grants under the “We’re All In” program, the governor said.
But how soon the state and nation beat the COVID-19 cycle of sickness, hospitalizations and deaths, and whether more federal aid is forthcoming, will determine Wisconsin’s quality of life in 2021, he added.
That $2 billion in federal cash runs out Jan. 1.
“If we don’t get additional federal resources,” Evers said. “We need urgent action from Congress now.”
Talks in Washington between the outgoing Trump administration, President-elect Biden and congressional leaders are stalled.
Evers estimated that continuing testing, contact tracing and Covid-19 help for stressed hospitals and other health-care systems would cost an additional $541 million in state funds between January and March of next year.
Because the $2 billion Evers spent is your money, you’re entitled to know how he spent it.
According to the Department of Administration summary, the most expensive programs were:
- $478.6 million for COVID-19 tests, including lab costs, supplies, specimen collection and preparedness. National Guard members and local workers conducted 2.5 million tests between March and Thanksgiving Day with an average positive rate of 15%, although that rate soared over the last month.
- $201 million in Routes to Recovery aid to local and tribal governments.
- $188 million for “We’re All In” grants of up to $5,000 for small businesses and innovation projects.
- $165 million, including $130 million to buy personal preparedness equipment and $35 million for ventilators for the sickest patients.
- $130 million to pay COVID-19 costs of state agencies.
- $122 million for what officials labeled “surge operating costs,” including $82 million to open the alternate care facility at State Fair Park for those who could be released from hospitals and $40 million for hospital and nursing home staffing.
- $100 million in “provider payments” to long-term care and community-based facilities and EMS responders.
- $80 million in Child Care Counts payments to organizations that provide child care.
- $75 million for state and local contact tracing programs, which have been overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the number of positive cases.
- $60 million to supplement payments to long-term care facilities.
- $50 million in direct payments to farmers.
- $40 million to hospitals.
- $37 million to colleges and universities.
- $35 million to help low- and middle-income families pay their rent.
- As a matter of full disclosure, WisconsinEye received $100,000.
Awards announced by the Evers administration show who was helped by two other, less costly programs.
For example, the Cultural Grants program awarded $15 million to statewide groups. Those grants ranged from $975 for the Encore Handbell Ensemble in Oshkosh to a maximum of $137,712, which went to 42 organizations, 17 of them in Milwaukee.
DOA said Cultural Grants went to the following Rock County groups:
Kids, Fun and Drama in Beloit, $5,601; Beloit Art Center, $5,490; Friends of Welty Environmental Center, $5,926; Beloit International Film Festival, $13,330; Beloit-Janesville Symphony Orchestra, $17,024; Janesville Performing Arts Center, $47,221; Rock County Historical Society, $37,372, and Milton Historical Society, $18,021.
Movie theater grants totaled $10 million and ranged from $14,619 to $4 million to Marcus Cinemas and $1 million to American Multi-Cinema Inc., which operate theaters statewide.
A $233,981 movie theater grant went to Rosebud Partners of Janesville; Tivoli Enterprises of Beloit got a grant of $146,198.